U.S. Midterm Election Forecast
Date 2006/11/3 12:10:00
|Turin, November 2, 2006 – Whatever happens in the American midterm elections, George Bush remains president of the United States until January 2009, and nothing will change in America’s Iraq policy unless he decides that it change. As he likes to remind his fellow-citizens, he is The Decider.|
Thus Democratic politicans’ arguments about what should be done are of intellectual interest only (if that is not an exaggeration). Like most of the proposals offered by American critics of the war, they rest on unrealistic assumptions.
Other than simply get out of Iraq, in the belief that the Iraqis themselves not only can, but must, settle their own fates (as some sensible and non-partisan figures, such as Gen. William Odom, have been saying from the start of the insurrection – a recommendation resisted by most officials and commentators), the main proposals currently on offer from prominent Democrats are the following:
Leave Iraq, on a one-year calendar of withdrawals;
Limit the American role to support for Iraq’s security forces; or...
Partition Iraq into Kurd, Sunni and Shia states, or alternatively, two states, a semi-autonomous Kurd entity and a Sunni-Shia state, with arangements to split the earnings from Iraq’s oilfields (which are mostly in Shia and Kurd territories).
The Bush administration itself recently suggested that continued American presence be linked to benchmarks of progress by Iraq’s security forces in “standing up” while Americans “stand down.” It then took back the offer, presumably because the security forces are not making progress. The benchmarks are negative. Partition, finally, is a huge and complex project scarcely plausible in the middle of the insurrection (even if desirable, which is probably not the case).
The bi-partisan Baker Commission, mandated by Congress to recommend a way out of Iraq, is said to be stalemated between those who recognize the inevitability of withdrawal, and those still searching for a way to preserve an American security presence in the country.
The suggestion made by one of its members that the United States insist on an Israel-Palestine settlement, as essential to reducing regional conflict, falters on the fact that Commission members are drawn from the great and good of the American foreign policy community, never previously willing to place the pressure on Israel essential to an equitable settlement.
The political interest of the Bush administration is still to “stay the course” for two more years, so that eventual failure in Iraq can be blamed on Bush’s successor. The Democrats want the war ended before the next presidential election, but failing that, their actual interest would be to see another Republican president elected, so they are not blamed for how the affair eventually ends. What happens to the Iraqi people, and the American soldiers fighting the war, comes last in these calculations.
The implications are bad for American relations with its oldest allies, already worsened. A new European Elites Survey by the University of Siena and the Compagnia di San Paolo, made available to guests at the European Trilateral Commission’s annual meeting in Turin, indicates an enormous and ominous discrepancy between popular European attitudes towards American international leadership and those of Europe’s elites.
The survey interrogated members of the European Commission and European Parliament, and individuals in nine EU countries (including Poland and Slovakia). The EU’s leadership has never been questioned on so large a scale.
Ordinary Europeans are far less approving of close relations with Washington than are members of the European Parliament and the European Commission, still heavily committed to the American alliance. The results also call into question whether the EU, acting independently, would be capable of assuming international crisis leadership.
Only 39% of the general public in Europe thinks American leadership in world affairs desirable, as against 75% support for American leadership from EU officials and 73% from European parliamentarians. Only 29% of the public wants closer EU-U.S. relations, and only 19% approves of President Bush.
“Disaffection with and a reluctance to follow the U.S. have grown consistently among the general public,” the survey authors write. Only 59% of the public thinks NATO is essential to European security, as against 85% of the EU officials.
The common Washington and U.S. press view that it’s the elites in Europe who are hostile to American leadership is wrong. The general public is more anti-American, by a big margin. This presumably is a judgment on Bush administration policies in Iraq and the so-called war against terror.
Europe’s political classes are watching the U.S. midterm elections looking for a message of change. They blame the Bush administration for a grave deterioration in western relations with the Islamic world, plus serious internal tensions concerning Moslems in their own populations.
Whatever the election outcome, they are likely to be disappointed. Neither Democrats nor Republicans have a practical program for ending the Iraq crisis.
Copyright 2006 by Tribune Media Services International. All Rights Reserved.